Spectacles of Sovereignty: Persian Shahs in Imperial Europe, 1873-1905

Dr David Motadel (University of Cambridge)
6 March 2014

This podcast explores the impact and meaning behind the visits of Persian Shahs to Imperial Europe. It examines what exactly these visits entailed, considering tradition and propriety, as well as the political implications. Not only were these diplomatic trips, often appearing to be nothing more than friendly relations and sightseeing tours, they also had many political undertones. A consideration, of how much was an attempt to embrace the other culture, while showcasing their own, is also enabled by the descriptions of the differing ceremonies that were attempted by both the Shahs and the European powers. The discussion allows an insight into how much influence Imperial Europe had and how much these visits allowed non-European monarchs to legitimise themselves in a system of international relations dominated by European powers. Motadel also considers the contrast between the treatment of those of different classes from outside of Europe, the amount of respect given to these monarchs and what tensions may have appeared to due to religious and cultural differences. The use of diaries of the Shahs thus allows an insight from both a European and non-European perspective, and a consideration of what these visits really meant.

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